Hon. Sir Arthur Kaye Legge

1766-1835. Born on 25 October 1766, he was the sixth son of the statesman, William Legge, the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, and of his wife, Frances Catherine Nicoll. He had seven brothers, one of whom became the Bishop of Oxford, whilst his youngest sibling, a solitary sister, became Lady Feversham.

As was often the case with a young aristocrat bound for a career in the Navy, Legge’s name was entered to the books of a vessel, in his case the Diamond 32, Captain William Forster, on 16 December 1779, removing to the Duke 90, Captain Sir Charles Douglas, on 25 January 1780. His initial service at sea probably began in April when he joined the Prince George 98, Captain William Fox, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Hon Robert Digby as the second-in-command in the Channel Fleet. He would therefore have experienced the June to December 1780 cruises and the second relief of Gibraltar on 12 April 1781.

In July 1781 Digby was appointed the commander-in-chief in North America, and shortly afterwards the admiral shifted his flag to the Lion 64, Captain Fox, in order that the Prince George could supplement Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s force in the West Indies. Remaining in North America, Legge was seconded to the armed vessel Rhinoceros 10, Commander Richard Keats, in November 1782, a vessel he later rejoined for a month after serving on the Aigle 38, Captain Richard Creyk, from December until June 1783.

Although the American Revolutionary War had by now ended, Legge had the good fortune to be placed upon the Bonetta 16 with Captain Keats in July 1783, remaining with her as she saw service on the North American station, latterly as an acting lieutenant. In June 1784 he transferred to the Ariadne 20, Captain Samuel Osborn, in which he served on the same station until the end of June 1786. There followed three years of unemployment before he was commissioned lieutenant on 3 August 1789, joining the Salisbury 50, Captain William Domett, with the flag of Vice-Admiral Mark Milbanke at Newfoundland. During the Spanish Armament of 1790 he was aboard the Valiant 74, commanded by the Duke of Clarence, with whom he had previously served under Rear-Admiral Digby.

At the conclusion of the Spanish Armament, Legge was one of many officers promoted commander, with his seniority dating from 19 November 1790 following his appointment to the Atalanta 14 for purposes of rank only. On 25 February 1791 he was appointed to the sloop Shark 14, which entered harbour at Portsmouth on 19 March prior to going out to Spithead on 23 April. She came back into Portsmouth on 7 May with seamen for the fleet and then promptly put out again on the Impress Service to return to Portsmouth with more seamen on 11 June. She was still on this service during July, and she also visited the Scilly Islands. On 24 August she grounded on a ledge of rocks near Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight whilst trying to pass through the Needles in a fog, but she was re-floated once her guns and stores had been removed by boats arriving from Spithead to assist her.

During September 1791, the Shark was one of several ships ordered to attend the King at Weymouth on his annual holiday, and on the 19th of that month she was paid off before being immediately recommissioned at Plymouth. She was back at the Devonshire port on 2 January 1792, served with the Channel Fleet at Spithead in July, and saw further duty attending the King at Weymouth in September. By December she was in the Downs, and on 31 December she arrived at Portsmouth with one hundred and fifty seamen for Commodore Alan Gardner’s pennant ship Queen 98. During January 1793, as war with the French Republic approached, she joined several other small vessels in ferrying troops over to the Channel Islands.

Legge was posted captain of the Assistance 50 on 6 February 1793, in which vessel he arrived in Plymouth Sound on the 14th to embark the ambassador to Madrid, Lord St. Helens, and the governor of Gibraltar, General Charles O’Hara. His command sailed for the Rock four days later, and by early June she was back in the Downs, from where she departed on the 11th with a convoy for Portsmouth.

Legge commanded the frigate Niger at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794

In July 1793 he took command of the frigate Niger 32 in succession to Captain Robert Moorsom, being employed with the Channel Fleet. During early December his command took a convoy from the Downs to Portsmouth, prior to rejoining the fleet, and on 4 January 1794 she entered Portsmouth Harbour before being released from the dock to Spithead a month later on 8 February. She was present at the Battle of the Glorious First of June where she repeated signals for Vice-Admiral Thomas Graves, and she hosted the Lords of the Admiralty when those notables and the royal family arrived at Portsmouth to celebrate the victory shortly afterwards.

In July 1794 Legge transferred with his crew to the eighteen-pounder frigate Latona 38, which formed part of a squadron that sailed from the Downs on 4 August to cruise off the coast of France and Flushing before arriving off Portsmouth seventeen days later. She then joined the Channel Fleet when it sailed for Torbay, during which voyage she was run afoul by a vessel thought to be an East Indiaman. Consequently, on 7 September she went up the Hamoaze at Plymouth with a sprung bowsprit, missing fore-topgallant mast, other damages, and with the figurehead of a ship hanging over her larboard quarter which was believed to be that of the Queen 98.

In early December 1794 Legge and several other captains kissed the King’s hand upon being appointed to a squadron that was detailed to sail under the orders of Commodore John Willet Payne to collect the royal bride Princess Caroline from Cuxhaven, although various delays meant that it was not until 28 March 1795 that the Prince of Wales’ betrothed was embarked. On the return voyage to England, Legge’s command brought home the ambassador to the Swiss cantons, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and his wife.

During June 1795, the Latona cruised off the Orkney and Shetland Isles with a squadron under the command of Captain Robert M’Douall of the Scipio 64, and upon arriving at Portsmouth on the 27th she was ordered to join a Mediterranean convoy largely consisting of troop transports under the orders of Captain Cuthbert Collingwood of the Excellent 74. After setting sail on 8 July, she appears to have been detached from this duty, for on 12 August she was sent from Plymouth to join the Channel Fleet, although she was back at Portsmouth ten days later. On 14 October she assisted the Melampus 36, Captain Richard Strachan, and others of that officer’s squadron in driving the French frigates Tortue 40 and Néréide 36 into Rochefort, and she ended the year cruising off the coast of France with Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey’s division of ten sail of the line which entered Plymouth on 3 January 1796.

There followed further service with the Channel Fleet, the Latona sailing with Rear-Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour’s division from Portsmouth in May 1796, and she was with the same force in August prior to dropping down to St. Helens from Portsmouth in early September. She then departed for Plymouth Sound to rendezvous with elements of Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner’s division, and in early November arrived back at Portsmouth. Orders by telegraph saw her scurry back to sea towards the end of the month in the company of the Greyhound 32, Captain James Young, and after a brief return to the base the two frigates put out for France once more. Here the Latona captured the privateer Esperance 14 off Le Havre on Christmas Eve, and she was back at Plymouth by the end of the year.

On 4 January 1797 the Latona captured a Netherlands-bound Danish ship off Portland that was valued at thirty thousand guineas, and at the end of the month she put out from Portsmouth on a cruise. Operating once more with the Greyhound, the two frigates gave chase to a couple of privateers off Dieppe on 18 February, but the Latona was unsuccessful in her pursuit. During March she was under repair at Sheerness, and in early April it was reported that Legge was to join the new frigate Cambrian 40. Before he could transfer, the Latona was present when the Spithead mutiny erupted on 16 April, and she sailed around to the Nore without Legge to join the mutiny which had broken out on that station on 12 May.

Meanwhile Legge joined the Cambrian, which left Portsmouth Harbour for Spithead on 25 June 1797, but in which he had to put back to St. Helens on 18 July after setting out with the East Indian and Portuguese convoy that morning. After getting away again before the end of the month, her Portuguese convoy was detained in Torbay by contrary winds during August and then had to put into Plymouth. It was not until 10 September that they were able to put to sea again, but a further problem with the weather saw them wind-bound at Falmouth, from where they eventually sailed for Portugal on 26 September, nearly two months after departing Portsmouth.

By the beginning of December 1797, the Cambrian was back at Portsmouth from where she was promptly despatched on several cruises, during which she captured a number of French merchantmen and privateers. The latter included the Vengeur 12 in the Channel on 4 January 1798, when she was in company with the Indefatigable 44, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, and the Childers 14, Commander James O’Bryen. Continuing to serve with Pellew’s squadron after briefly returning to Plymouth in early February, she took the St. Malo privateer César 16 on 27 March, and the Pont de Lidi 16 on 30 March, both of which were sent into Plymouth. In June she cruised with a small squadron between the Cove of Cork and Cape Spartel to prevent French reinforcements reaching Ireland, and on 19 October she was off the Spanish coast where she recaptured an American ship bound for London, along with the French privateer that had taken her, the Revanche 20, and two of her other prizes, the whole being sent into Plymouth. After being sent to cruise off Lorient, she captured the brig privateer Cantabré 14 on 8 December. During the same month, it was reported in the newspapers that the Cambrian had surrendered to two French frigates, but it was soon established that this was a falsehood which had originated from a young man who had wished to divert his intended’s attention from a seaman aboard the frigate and had thus fabricated the story of her capture!

On 20 February 1799 the Cambrian was struck by lightning in the Channel with one man being killed outright, two others blinded, another rendered ‘raving man’, and more than a dozen others wounded. She came into Portsmouth on 12 May from the Channel Fleet, which she had left off Cape Clear, and shortly afterwards Legge sat on the court martial in that port of Captain Lord Augustus Fitzroy of the sloop Sphinx for disobedience of orders. In June the Cambrian was off Le Havre, and on 9 September she arrived in the Downs from Portsmouth to embark the Duke of York and his suite for the Flanders Expedition. During October she cruised with the Stag 32, Captain Joseph Yorke, and on 12 November she put into Falmouth having recaptured a merchantman and taken several other prizes. Ten days later she sailed out again, but on Boxing Day she was back at the Cornish port from Plymouth.

During early 1800 the Cambrian was off the French coast before returning to Falmouth towards the end of February with news of the failure of the Chouan uprising. She then put out for Plymouth, and after rejoining the Channel Fleet she captured the Rochefort brig privateer Dragon 10 in company with the Fisgard 38, Captain Thomas Byam Martin, on 5 May. In the second week of July, she left Plymouth for the Channel Fleet, and in the following month she once more received orders to attend the King on his annual holiday at Weymouth, in the course of which employment she took a royal party and numerous guests out to sea on 5 August. She was still off Weymouth in early October where Legge attended a banquet thrown by the mayor and members of the Corporation, and she reached Portsmouth from a cruise on 28 December.

On 7 January 1801 the Cambrian entered Portsmouth Harbour for a refit, and on 31 March left Portsmouth with the East India convoy for the Cape in company with the Superb 74, Captain Richard Keats, and the Courageux 74, Captain Samuel Hood. In the course of this duty she took the Bordeaux privateer lugger Audacieux 14 in the Channel on 6 April, sending her into Plymouth, and the three ships made some other valuable captures during their voyage south. By 23 April they were off the Cape Verde Islands, and after reaching St. Helena the Cambrian was back in Portsmouth by 22 August, having shortly before detained a valuable Danish East Indiaman on the assumption that the two nations were still at war. She was then sent around to Weymouth to attend the King on his vacation, and whilst in this supposedly harmless employment a dozen men were badly wounded when, in the process of firing the royal salute, a cartridge was set alight and blown up. She entered Plymouth in the first few days of October, and despite reports that Legge was to join the Centaur 74, he took leave of absence and remained on half pay for the rest of the French Revolutionary War.

Legge served as a groom of the bedchamber to King George from 1801 until the monarch’s death in 1820

In the meantime, on 30 May 1801, he had been appointed a groom of the bedchamber to King George III. In February 1802 he was presented to the King at a levee, and although in June he put his name forward as a candidate for election to Parliament as the prospective member for Shaftesbury, he soon stopped canvassing when it became apparent that his chances of winning the vote were slim. During October he was at Cheltenham, in November he was presented at Court once more, and he was at a levee given by the King in February 1803, attending several society and royal events thereafter despite the resumption of hostilities with France in May.

In July 1803 he was appointed to the Repulse 74, which was launched that month amidst a great fanfare and before many notables, and which was commissioned by Legge on 24 August after being coppered at Woolwich. She briefly served as the flagship to Rear-Admiral Thomas Macnamara Russell at Yarmouth from November and saw further employment for the rest of the year on the North Sea station, the Nore and the Downs under the overall command of Admiral Lord Keith. At the beginning of January 1804, she was dispatched from Yarmouth to join the force off the Texel., and during March she was in the Yarmouth Roads before sailing on the 24th to join Rear-Admiral Edward Thornbrough off the Dutch coast.

In May 1804 the Repulse was ordered to Portsmouth, where she arrived on 11 June, and from where she sailed a week later to join the Channel Fleet. She was off Rochefort in October, prior to entering Plymouth on the 22nd with the squadron under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Graves. In early January 1805, she captured a valuable homeward-bound Spanish merchantman from Havana off Ferrol, sending her into Plymouth, and in March Legge assumed command of the blockading squadron of six sail of the line off Ferrol following the departure of Rear-Admiral Hon. Alexander Cochrane in chase of the French Rochefort squadron, which had broken out on 11 January. The Repulse was later with Graves’ squadron, which officer was succeeded off Rochefort in June by Rear-Admiral Charles Stirling. She then fought at the Battle of Finisterre on 22 July, suffering casualties of four men wounded, and she returned to Portsmouth on 24 August before putting out again for the fleet a few days later.

On 6 November 1805 the Repulse arrived at Plymouth to refit, and on 8 December, having been released from dock, she went up the Hamoaze for Cawsand Bay. Legge then departed for Portsmouth to attend the court martial of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder as a witness, conversant with that officer’s conduct at the Battle of Finisterre. Meanwhile at Plymouth, his command sailed on 22 December for St. Helens under an acting-captain to join Vice-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, who was forming a squadron to join in the hunt for the French squadrons under Vice-Admiral Leissègues and Rear-Admiral Willaumez, which had broken out from Brest. After rejoining his ship, Legge sailed with Warren’s squadron from Portsmouth on 12 January 1806 and he was present at the capture of the Marengo 80 and Belle Poule 40 on 13 March, prior to returning with Warren to Portsmouth on 14 May.

The Repulse was still at Portsmouth in June 1806, whereupon Legge went up to London to attend a levee held by the King. Towards the end of August she sailed under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis for Belle-Isle in search of Willaumez’s squadron, and she was present at the capture of the frigate Présidente 44 by Louis’ force on 27 September. Shortly afterwards, and still under Louis’s orders, she sailed to join the Mediterranean fleet.

At the beginning of 1807 the Repulse was off Cadiz with the bulk of Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood’s Mediterranean Fleet, and she joined Vice-Admiral Sir John Duckworth’s disastrous expedition to Constantinople from February, suffering casualties of ten men killed and fourteen wounded in the campaign, but distinguishing herself in Rear-Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith’s action with the Turks. During the summer she was with Collingwood’s squadron which sailed for the Dardanelles on 2 July, and she was with the fleet off Syracuse at the end of November. Remaining with Collingwood, she participated in his rather desultory chase of Vice-Admiral Ganteaume’s Toulon Fleet following its breakout on 7 February 1808 and thereafter returned to the monotony of the blockade of the French port. On 15 September she left Gibraltar with a convoy of twenty-one transports to reach Portsmouth on 15 October whereupon she entered quarantine. Days later she was one of the ships that hosted the Prince of Wales on his visit to Portsmouth, prior to entering harbour at the end of the month for a thorough repair, whereupon Legge travelled up to London.

In December 1808 he attended a levee held by the King, and after briefly visiting Portsmouth he was back in London by January 1809 at Warne’s Hotel in Charles Street. On 22 May he sat upon the court-martial of Rear-Admiral Eliab Harvey at Portsmouth which investigated that officer’s improper behaviour to Admiral Lord Gambier prior to the Battle of the Basque Roads, and two days later the Repulse finally sailed out of Portsmouth Harbour. On 16 June Legge was despatched in command of a small squadron to monitor some French ships which had recently entered Cherbourg, in which role he was superseded ten days later by Commodore Sir Joseph Yorke. The Repulse was then recalled to serve in the Walcheren Expedition from July, being one of the seven 74’s under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan which bombarded Flushing. Along with many other members of the British combined force, Legge suffered from the fever during this disastrous campaign, and he was obliged to resign his command after she returned to Portsmouth in early October. Hence, when the Repulse went out to the Mediterranean in the following month it was under the temporary command of Captain John Halliday.

In February 1810 Legge attended another levee with the King, and he was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 31 July, being presented to the King again shortly afterwards. Remaining ashore, during February 1811 it was announced that he had attended St. James’ Palace in his role as a groom of the King’s bedchamber, and he also made frequent visits during this period to request an update on the health of the ailing monarch.

Returning to duty, on 5 June 1811 Legge sailed from Portsmouth with his flag aboard the Revenge 74, Captain John Nash, to assume command of the squadron off Cadiz, which port was under siege by the French. During August he cruised between Cape Trafalgar and Cape Spartel with four sail of the line in search of a French squadron that was believed to have broken out from Rochefort, and at the end of September he returned to the Spanish port to anchor for the winter. Here his squadron continued to provide support to the British and Spanish armies. He was relieved by the newly promoted Rear-Admiral George Cockburn in October 1812, and after returning to Portsmouth the Revenge was released from quarantine on 5 November.

Legge’s health appears to have been poor in the early part of 1813, but in June he visited Brighton, and by the end of the year he was commanding in the Thames with his flag aboard the Thisbe 28, Commander Thomas Eyre, which post was convenient for his seat at Blackheath. He was presented to the Prince Regent at a levee in December, and was promoted vice-admiral on 4 June 1814. Shortly afterwards, he had a major role in honouring the visit of the Russian Tsar and Prussian King to Woolwich, and he eventually struck his flag in December.

He was created a K.C.B. in 1815, and he continued with his duties as a groom of the bedchamber to George III until the Kings’ death in 1820, which role required him to issue regular bulletins on the monarch’s deteriorating health. He also had an official role in George III’s funeral. A regular visitor to London and Brighton in his retirement, he was promoted admiral on 22 July 1830.

Admiral Legge died at Blackheath on 12 May 1835 in the villa of his sister-in-law, the Dowager Countess of Dartmouth, and he was interred in the family vault at Lewisham. Having never married, his large fortune was shared not only by his nieces and nephews, but also by his butler, coachman, footman, groom, housekeeper, and housemaid.

Legge was renowned as a brilliant seaman.